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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On and On...

It was a cool spring evening in Oklahoma.  I knelt down in the garden and pushed one after another of the onion plants into the ground, and wondered why.  The girl who lived next door walked over and watched me.  Finally I glanced up at her as she commented, “You keep on, keepin’ on.”  It was one of those comments to which there is no retort. She walked away and kept on keepin’ on.  I could think of many other ways to use my time as a teenager, but Mother insisted on helping with the family garden. 

Now in the ‘sunset years’ I ponder time, and the mystery of years that passed so quickly. I don’t use the phrase now, keep on keepin’ on, but ‘steadfast living’.  Now it isn’t about planting gardens in the 40’s, it is about the rest of the time that God gives me. 

Last Lord’s Day, I heard our pastor read the story in Daniel 3. The three were brought from Israel and served the King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.  They refused to bow down to the impossibly huge golden statue, ninety feet tall and nine feet wide, to worship.  They refused saying, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Their hands were immediately bound and thrown into a furnace heated to a high degree – seven times hotter than ever before.

The three men were steadfast, they were keeping on, keepin’ on in their faith in God despite being taken away from their home.  They served Him because their faith in Him did not depend on what He did for them, but WHO He is.

Did they wonder about time?  Did they ask why they were not home, but in a foreign land? Did they question God?  The God who cannot be seen?  The God who released the Israelites from bondage in Egypt?   The God who delivered the Israelites from enemies as they travelled ever onward to the Promised Land?  The God who loves His children so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins in this and every generation.

Recently I watched a movie about time travel.  I thought about Time and God.  Suddenly the immensity of the number of years of time that have passed since the beginning of time caused me to wonder.  It is said that for God, a time of a thousand years is but a day.  For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.  Psalm 90:4 

Suddenly the panorama of time of just my generation appears in one quick motion.  A blip of time that includes the hurts, the joys, the sorrows and wondering of my lifetime, and yet I know that God was there each moment. 

To our Lord God the passing of the generations is a fast moving kaleidoscope of wars, famines, inventions, accomplishments, nations that rise and fall, births and deaths, joys and sorrows.  Tying these events together is the Red Ribbon of Faith that is woven in the hearts of men through the ages.  Is it any wonder that God’s Word is sovereign?  It is the story of men who lived and died.  It is the ultimate story of faith in God and His love and His purposes for our lives.   It is Who He is!

For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? Isaiah 64:1-4

Is the organization of times that Solomon wrote about, for us?
 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend,  a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:2-8

The Ribbon of Faith of those who lived long ago (according to our time) is listed in Hebrews Chapter 11.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets are listed as those with Faith in God.  Each of them believed and God was with them, just as He is with us each moment.  He is omniscient.

God sees Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end – not of time that we understand, but of eternity.  God dwells in a spiritual realm, beyond the physical realm, we live in.  He is not confined to the physical realm that constricts us to the ‘now’ of our lives.  His greatness is defined by every curve and design of His Creation.  His majesty is greater than the endless vastness of the universe that surrounds us.  His transcendent love and forgiveness enfolds us through the measureless gift of grace through Jesus Christ’s love-sacrifice. 

Is it any wonder that I praise Him?  Is it any wonder that I love Him?  Is it any wonder that I give thanks daily?  For wonder of wonders, this Awesome Father in Heaven loves even me.  And you! 

Let all that I am praise the Lord. O Lord my God, how great you areYou are robed with honor and majesty.  Palm 104:1


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Safe Place

The young mother held the newborn baby in her arms, providing a ‘Safe Place’.  A place where her child is loved and cared for . 

What is a Safe Place?  It is a place is where someone is not hungry or hurt.  It is defined as a sanctuary, a shelter, a hideaway or a refuge.  It is defined as being secure from liability to harm, hurt, injury, danger or risk.

As we grow up, we find other safe places, for we cannot stay a babe in arms forever.  The first Safe Place I remember was under a pink bedspread on Sunday afternoon.  Time didn’t seem to exist under the bedspread.  Light streamed through the bedspread giving the current book I read a rosy-colored hue.  The book carried me further away from my bedroom to worlds beyond in adventures.

Life beyond stories in books beckoned me.  There I learned laughter, rejection, understanding, failure and a myriad other first-hand lessons.  There were moments of peace that calmed my soul.  There were moments of terror and the spectre of death that shook my Safe Place.

Darkness carried its unease.  My bedroom, as a girl, had four windows looking on to our backyard.  One night, during the height of World War II, I saw millions of foreign soldiers peering into my bedroom from the darkness. My Dad’s strong hand held mine as he led me into the dark regions of the back yard to show me there was no danger.  Now God’s strong hand guides me in the labyrinths of darkness of this world.

The Safe Place, we as parents, provided for our children has come full circle.  In our old and weakened age, our children provide that Safe Place for us.  They give us the confidence to live in a dark world that threatens on every side.

Our Safe Place can be not secured with the things of this earth – money, education, affluence, power or possessions.  For all of these things, can disappear in an instant, leaving nothing.  Or is it a beginning of the realization of our true Safe Place?

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  Matthew 6:19-21

Store our treasures in heaven where moths and rust cannot destroy or thieves do not break in and steal?    Who is in charge?  That sounds like the Safe Place I need.  Now.  I wonder how much it costs.  Could I buy it in instalments?  How much would it cost to ship my treasures to Heaven?

One question at a time, please.  The answers are all in one book, The Book, The Bible written by the inspired prophets of old.  It tells about God – Who He is and how Awesome He is and that God loves us.  What are the most important things that we want a Safe Place from?  I can think of three that plague us: 
Hunger and Thirst
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.  Matthew 5:6
Shame and Guilt
 And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.  Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children. I John 2:28-29
Fear and Death                                                                                                                 God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.  I John 4:16b-19
God gives us a way to worship Him, to love Him, and keep us in His Safe Place.   Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

Who is this God?  How can we know that He is near?  One of the Psalms, 29:3-9, makes it so clear that He is near:
The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders.  The Lord thunders over the mighty sea. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;  the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.  He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with bolts of lightning. The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare.  In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

The last two verses of the same Psalm, 10-11, describes our Safe Place with our Lord and Savior. The Lord rules over the flood waters. The Lord reigns as king forever.  The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.

As a wise person once told me, “Whether we are in heaven or here on this earth, the safe place to be is in God's arms. He holds us, comforts us, encourages us, strengthens us, fills us with hope, joy, peace, and gives us the courage to move forward.”


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reflections On Connections!

My son and I sat in a small waiting room in the hospital for the next step for pre-op for cataract surgery.  A nurse appeared at the door.  Everyone came to attention waiting for their names to be called.  When the nurse announced the name, two ladies stood up.  It took awhile to untangle the identities of the two.  As we listened, we learned that the husbands also had the same names.  The waiting room was abuzz with laughter and exclamations as each tried to find out the background of the other couple.  It reminded me of family reunions I have attended. Excited words ensued as they discovered similar lives and attempted to found out how they are connected.

Connections.  Who would have thought in a small waiting room in a large hospital that the similarity of names would draw two families together?  As the words swirled around the room, I thought about the power of words to connect us to each other.  Words and the meanings of the words draw us together.  I thought, too, how God gives us seemingly coincidences that He sets up for our wonder and joy in Him.

Have you ever wondered at the purpose of Alexander Graham Bell to invent the telephone?  He was a teacher of the deaf and conceived the idea of ‘electronic speech’ while vising his hearing-impaired mother.   He desired connections.

I thought about how my Uncle Jake, hungry for words, who lived in the dark world of the blind.  He learned Braille to give him words.  I watched as my granddaughter signed words during a church service for those who are deaf.  Her skilful fingers flew through the air speaking words of God.  I thought about my friend who has difficulty seeing, and listens to books through devices that pour words into the air.  I see the sixth grader in my classroom, always with a storybook at ready when her work was done.   

Words purport to sell, persuade, tell a story/parable or entertain, Words can build up, tear down, teach, or create a world of love or of hate.  Words build barriers between people or bridges to connect.  Words, despite what we learned as children, are powerful.  They produce connection with love or disconnect with hurt.

The words we choose to use in a moment of anger linger in the hearts of the hearer for a lifetime. Words paint a picture for the hearer of who we are.  Body language underlines the verbs of our words that we use.

Now, how did Words begin?  The words from long ago.  Do they still vibrate in the air? Words of every language – fill our minds.  Words began this way:  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
In John 1:1-5 is another reference to where words began…  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The more I considered the word – Connections – the more I see connections all around us that were put into place by our God, our Lord, our Mighty One.  Our God is a connecting God who loves to bring connections in our lives through words and actions.

  God wants a relationship with us.  He created Adam and asked him to name the animals.
  God created the world.  Is it any wonder that He connects the moon with the tides of the oceans?
 Is it any wonder that he created tiny seeds that become the food that man eats – another connection.
  God created light that follows darkness – and a sun that follows the moon.  (Do they communicate as they pass?)
  God created Eve, as a helper to Adam.. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  Genesis 2:24.  And now we use a connection – a circle – a ring  -- to make marriage binding.
  We call it bonding when a mother holds her new born baby.  Another connection.
  A family legacy grows with each generation, and the family chooses that legacy. A connection.
  There are always consequences to our choice of actions every day – another connection.
  When we smile at someone, there is a connection. 

The most binding and far-reaching connection is God’s love for each of us.  He reaches out and loves us so much that He gave his Son Jesus to live on earth and to become a sacrifice for our sins.  This is a connection above any other on this earth.  When Jesus died on the cross, his blood was shed for sins of every human who ever walks this earth.

When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we connect with that blood.  When we read God’s Word of Life, we connect with His love.  When we pray for forgiveness and worship Him, we connect with our Lord God.  When we love and serve others, it is done to God as well.  That is connection.

The connection with God is delicately entwined and interwoven and describe who God is.  These words are our connection with Him.  Wisdom and Hope and Trust emanate and grow from the Fruit of the Spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23